Is it legal to terminate employment for trying to find another job and posting about it on-line?

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Is it legal to terminate employment for trying to find another job and posting about it on-line?

I was recently fired for posting on facebook that I was looking for employment elsewhere. This was after my manager agreed to sign an employee release form granting me permission to apply for positions with the corporate headquarters that stated I was an excellent employee. Is this in any way legal?

Asked on May 28, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unless you had an employment agreement guarantying your employment or limiting the grounds under which you could be fired, this is perfectly legal, unfortuately; without an employment contract (including a union agreement), you are an employee at will, and as the term implies, an employee at will may be fired at any time, for any reason, whether they are an excellent, average, or awful employee. The permission to look for a job at corporate headquarters would not carry over to protection from looking for jobs/posting for a job elsewhere.

Not only this is this legal; it's common and accepted; employers regularly terminate employees who are known to be looking. The thinking--which is reasonable--is that there is a risk of distraction, of disloyalty, and of being "left in the lurch" by a sudden departure; better to get rid of the worker at the employer's own timing.

Similarly, it is legal to take action against employees based on what they post in public forums, including Facebook. Only if the employer acted improperly to access the post (e.g. hacked your account) would this be an issue.

In the future, don't post about job searches on Facebook or similar social media sites.


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